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Canton Bulldogs
Canton Bulldogs logo

Founded 1905
Folded 1926
Based in Canton, Ohio, United States
Home field League Field
League Ohio League
(1903-1906, 1911-1919)
National Football League
(1920-23, 1925-26)
Team History Canton Athletic Club (1903-1906)
Canton Professionals (1911-1915)
Canton Bulldogs
(1906, 1915-1923, 1925-1926)
Team Colors Maroon, White
         
Head coaches Blondy Wallace (1904-1906)
Jack Cusack (1911-1915)
Jim Thorpe (1915-1921)
Cap Edwards (1921)
Guy Chamberlin (1922-1923)
Harry Robb (1925-1926)
Pete Henry (1926)
Owner(s) Canton Athletic Club (1903-1906)
Jack Cusack (1911-1918)
Ralph Hay (1918-1923)
Canton Athletic Company (1923)
Sam Deutsch (1923-25)
Herb Brandt (1925-27)
NFL Championship wins 1922, 1923
Other League Championship wins 1916, 1917, 1919
(Ohio League)

The Canton Bulldogs was one of the first American Professional Football teams, and was based in Canton, Ohio. They played in the Ohio League from 1903 to 1906 and 1911 to 1919, and in the National Football League from 1920 to 1923 and 1925 to 1926. The Bulldogs won the 1922 and 1923 NFL championships. In 1924, Sam Deutsch, the owner of the team in Cleveland called the Indians, bought the Canton Bulldogs and took the team nickname and players to his Cleveland franchise as the Cleveland Bulldogs. He offered to sell the Canton franchise back to Canton to play in the 1924 season, but there were no buyers so he "mothballed" the Canton club. The Canton team was re-established in 1925, and the NFL considers the 1925–1926 Canton Bulldogs to be the same team as the 1920–1923 incarnation.

Jim Thorpe was Canton's best player. In 1921–1923, the Bulldogs played 25 straight games without a defeat (including 3 ties), which as of 2009 remains an NFL record. As a result of the Bulldogs' early success along with the league being founded in the city, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton. [1]

An unrelated "Canton Bulldogs" team played in the United Football League in 1964; the team's name was somewhat coincidental, as it had moved from Cleveland and kept its original nickname; that team moved to Philadelphia and became the "Philadelphia Bulldogs." All in all, this version of the Cleveland-Canton-Philadelphia Bulldogs played from 1961 to 1966, its last two years in Philadelphia as a member of the Continental Football League.

Contents

History

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Origin

Prior to the debut of professional football in Canton, an amateur team from Canton was mentioned as being a superior team in Stark County, Ohio. Until about 1902, this team competed with the Akron East Ends for the Ohio Independent Championship. When the Massillon Tigers arrived on the scene and went professional, Canton, as an amateur team, was no longer competitive.

The Canton Bulldogs began as the Canton Athletic Club, a club designed to operate baseball and football teams. The club placed more emphasis on its football program. In 1905, the team was given the goal of beating the rival Massillon Tigers, who had won every Ohio League championships from 1903 to 1907.

Sometime during the 1906 season, the Canton team became known as the "Bulldogs" although no one is quite sure how it came to be affixed to the Canton team. They weren't called that in 1905 nor through most of the 1906 season. As late as November 4, R.C. Johnson, an editorial cartoonist with the Canton Repository, was only able to picture the Canton team as only a man with a club lying in wait for the Massillon Tiger. Most references to the team called it "Canton A.C.," "C.A.C.," "Canton eleven." "the Red and White" or "Wallace's Men." Suddenly, almost overnight, they became the "Bulldogs."

Blondy Wallace era

In 1905 Bulldogs coach, Blondy Wallace, signed an agreement with the Latrobe Athletic Association, led by quarterback John Brallier, to play in Canton on Thanksgiving. Latrobe had gone undefeated for three years. Led by the great quarterback John Brallier. Latrobe was not only the current Pennsylvania champions, but were undefeated for the last three seasons. They were also considered the only pro team capable of competing with Canton and Massillon. Cantons would go on to lose the game to Latrobe.

The addition of four former Massillon players, improved the team's chances for 1906. That year the Bulldogs won their first game against Massillon, at Canton, but lost the second game, and Massillon again claimed the Ohio championship. Shortly after that second game, a Massillon newspaper charged Canton coach Blondy Wallace with throwing the 1906 championship game. Canton denied the charges, maintaining that Massillon only wanted to ruin the club's reputation before their final game with Latrobe. Although Massillon could not prove that Canton had thrown the game, the accusation so tarnished Canton's name that virtually no one attended the Latrobe game. The scandal ruined professional football in Ohio until the mid 1910s. Other sports pundits argue that the expense of placing all-star teams on the field each week hampered on the sport. The Canton Morning News put a $20,000 price tag on the Massillon Tigers 1906 team, while many speculate that the Bulldogs probably cost even more. Stiil others contend that the games involving top teams like Canton and Massilon were too one-sided and lacked excitement.

Canton vs. Massillon November 24, 1906

While Massillon was still able to field a local team in 1907 and still win the Ohio League championship, the Canton team folded. Blondy Wallace may have lost more than money. His libel suit never came to trial. The reason was probably that he settled out of court, rather than that Massillon had some sort of secret evidence. This leaves the scandal still disputed by historians and football fans alike. Because Wallace settled out of court, we have only charges and countercharges instead of a real end to the fix scandal.

Jim Thorpe era

In 1911, Canton fielded a new team, called the Canton Professionals. The team was made up entirely of local players and the pay was undoubtedly small. In 1915, Massillon and Canton began hiring several players away from the Akron Pros. Jack Cusack, who had become manager of the Canton team, restored the old Bulldog name.

As the first of two Canton-Massillon games approached, Cusack signed Jim Thorpe for $250 a game. Thorpe did not play much in the Bulldogs first game, at Massillon which the Tigers won 16-0. In second game, Thorpe took over as the team's coach played the entire game. He kicked two field goals in a 6-0 Canton win.

In 1916, the Bulldogs went undefeated, beat Massillon 24-0, and were generally recognized as the professional champions, not only of Ohio, but also of the country. Because Thorpe was able to draw big crowds to Canton for games, Cusack was able to put together a financially stable squad that included several former All-Americans. The average attendance for a game prior to Thorpe's signing was 1,500. That soon rose to 6,000 and eventually reached 8,000 spectators, which was the capacity of Canton's League Park. Thorpe would remain the chief attendance draw in professional football until Red Grange entered the game in 1925. In 1917, the Bulldogs won their first eight games to claim the 1917 league championship. Neither Canton nor Massillon played during the 1918 season because of World War I and the influenza epidemic. Cusack left the team that year to start up an oil business in Oklahoma and Ralph Hay, a successful auto dealer, took over managing the team.

Hay kept Cusack's team pretty much intact in 1919 and the Bulldogs won their third league championship in four years. They played the Hammond Pros, twice in Chicago at Cubs Park, now Wrigley Field, in front of crowds of 10,000 fans.

NFL

While the Bulldogs were selling stadiums and promoting professional football in America, many teams were in serious financial trouble. These teams, who were trying to compete with the Bulldogs, were spending more money than they could afford and were stealing players from one another, which drove salaries even higher. In 1920 at Hay's auto showroom, known for Hupmobiles, the American Professional Football Association was organized. Thorpe was named the APFA's first permanent president, solely because he was the best-known name in the game. After scheduling a showcase game between Canton and the Buffalo All-Americans in New York City in December 1920, Thorpe left the Bulldogs at the end of the 1920 season.

In the APFA, the Bulldogs found the competition somewhat tougher than expected. Canton had a respectable 9-5-4 record over the next two seasons. The APFA became the National Football League in 1922 and Hay hired Guy Chamberlin as Canton's player-coach. Chamberlin rebuilt the Bulldogs into a championship team. He kept just five players from the 1921 squad. As a player Chamberlin led his team past the Chicago Cardinals in 1922 by blocking a punt that set up a touchdown, and running back two interceptions for touchdowns to beat the Cards' 20-3. The Bulldogs went on to win back-to-back NFL championships in 1922 and 1923.

The 1922-23 Canton Bulldogs

Things began to unravel for Canton in 1923. First Hay announced that he did not care to manage the Bulldogs anymore. His asking price for the team was $1,500, which was decided to be about $500 more than the 1922 champions were worth. Things were still up in the air when Hay and Chamberlin left for Chicago to represent the Bulldogs at the league's summer meeting. When Ralph Hay returned to Canton, he unloaded the Bulldogs on a group of local businessmen who formed the Canton Athletic Company to run the team. Chamberlin stayed on as coach, assuring the team of success on the field. Success at the gate was not nearly so likely.

Cleveland Bulldogs

As the payroll for Canton players became too expensive, the team lost about $13,000 in 1923 and the Canton Athletic Company sold the franchise in August for $2,500 to Cleveland promoter Samuel Deutsch, owner of the NFL's Cleveland Indians. He added seven players from Canton, renamed his team the Cleveland Bulldogs, and they won the 1924 NFL championship. Chamberlin also served as a player-coach of the Cleveland Bulldogs. He became the first to coach NFL champions in three consecutive years.

Deutsch then sold the franchise back to a group of Canton investors for $3,000 and the Canton Bulldogs were back in the NFL, along with the Cleveland Bulldogs. Canton had an overall record of 4-4-0 in 1925 and 1-9-3 in 1926. Before the 1927 season, the league decided to purge itself of some of the weaker franchise. Twelve teams were jettisoned, including the Bulldogs and three other charter members of the APFA.

Pro Football Hall of Famers

Season-by-season

World Champions Canton Bulldogs logo
Year League W L T Finish Coach Outcome
1905 Ohio 2nd Blondy Wallace
1906 Ohio 2nd Blondy Wallace
1907 did not play
1908 did not play
1909 did not play
1910 did not play
1911 Ohio Jack Cusack
1912 Ohio Jack Cusack
1913 Ohio Jack Cusack
1914 Ohio Jack Cusack
1915 Ohio Jack Cusack, Jim Thorpe
1916 Ohio 9 0 1 1st Jim Thorpe Champions
1917 Ohio 9 1 0 1st Jim Thorpe Champions
1918 did not play
1919 Ohio 1st Jim Thorpe Champions
1920 NFL 7 4 2 8th Jim Thorpe
1921 NFL 5 2 3 4th Cap Edwards
1922 NFL 10 0 2 1st Guy Chamberlin Champions
1923 NFL 11 0 1 1st Guy Chamberlin Champions
1924 did not play
1925 NFL 4 4 0 11th Harry Robb
1926 NFL 1 9 3 20th Harry Robb, Pete Henry
Totals 56 20 12

References


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